The Pittsburgh Penguins and Montreal Canadiens met three times during the 2019-20 regular season. And with that said, we are going to look at the ebbs, flows, ups, and downs from those three games to see things like: which players stood out between the two teams, who was healthy, who was hurt, which goalie started when, and any other interesting factoid that catches the eye.
Game 1: December 10, 2019 - Penguins lose 4-1. (Recap)
The first meeting of the season boiled down to a disastrous second period for the Pens. Remember Jake Guentzel? He was the lone goalscorer for Pittsburgh. Evgeni Malkin and Bryan Rust also assisted on the goal. Nice to see that connection was still going strong.
Tristan Jarry, coming off a two-game shutout streak of 177:15, took the loss here, finishing with an .880 save percentage. After this game, Jarry would, however, go on a six-game win streak, further escalating his All-Star season.
Sidney Crosby was probably the biggest man missing from the ice, as the captain was about a month into his recovery from the sports hernia surgery he underwent earlier in the season.
Game 2: January 4, 2020 - Penguins win 3-2 in OT. (Recap)
The second contest of the season series saw both teams ice pretty weak lineups, and in the Penguins’ case, Joseph Blandisi, Thomas Di Pauli, Juuso Riikola, Chad Ruhwedel, and Emil Larmi were all part of the squad on this night.
In a game where the stars couldn't shine, Pittsburgh got contributions from their depth, with Zach Aston-Reese, Bryan Rust (with an assist from Malkin), and Brandon Tanev getting the third and overtime winner.
Matt Murray got the win here, stopping 26 of 28 shots for a .929 save percentage. This win was his second in what would become a six-game win streak for the Thunder Bay, Ontario native. For his overtime losing effort, Carey Price stoped 34 of 37 shots.
Game 3: February 14, 2020 - Penguins win 4-1. (Recap)
Four days after being traded from the Minnesota Wild, the newest Penguin, Jason Zucker, shined brightly in the third and final game of the series. By this point in the season, the Canadiens weren’t much of a threat, with a record of 26-27-7 after the game, whereas Pittsburgh was on the other end of the spectrum with a record of 35-15-6.
Jason Zucker’s first two goals as a Penguin came within the final two minutes of the second period, and after an opening tally by Kris Letang, the second period and the game were basically decided with a 3-1 Penguins lead. Zach Aston-Reese would add an empty-netter for the final goal.
Sidney Crosby had returned by now and registered three assists on the night.
Tristan Jarry was back in net for this game, stopping 34 of 35 shots for a .971 save percentage. This game would be the third in what was a 4-game win streak for Jarry. However, after his fourth win in this streak, a 5-2 victory over the Maple Leafs on February 18, Jarry would begin to lose some momentum, losing his next four starts before the season went on pause.
The Penguins take the season series with two wins and one regulation loss. Combine all three games and it’s a bit of a mixed bag of results for Pittsburgh. A blown second period led to a bad 4-1 loss, the team willed their way to a 3-2 OT win, and manhandled a much weaker Montreal side the third time around.
This city loves a goalie controversy, but neither Murray nor Jarry played well enough to earn the season series sweep. When the first game of the play-in comes, I expect Matt Murray to get the nod based his prior experience, but will likely be playing on a short leash given Jarry’s stellar season.
This one may be a bit obvious, but the biggest difference maker or X-factor in the play-in could be Jake Guentzel. The former 40-goal scorer missed a huge chunk of the season due to a shoulder injury, but all signs are pointing to the elite winger being ready to go for the playoffs. Sid and Guentzel plus Malkin and Rust equals flame emoji.
Do any of these stats mean anything as we head into the series? Nope, probably not. But it’s fun to look back and see how the Penguins fared against their eventual postseason competition. Let us know down below how you view these statistics and whether or not you think these numbers will have any impact on the play-in.